Monday, June 29, 2015

Dairy FAQ: What's growing in that field?

I always meet the most interesting people on airplanes.

A corn field in north eastern Indiana
“So what do you do? Are you a sprinter, jumper, distance runner?”

“Thrower. Well, I used to be when I threw discus in high school, but that was ten years ago,” I said.
I was wearing my track and field sweatshirt from the 2005 season (which also said 2005 on it) on the plane back to Seattle last week when the flight attendant, who apparently knew a thing or two about track and field, asked me more about it.

Fast forward about an hour or so and I found out the guy sitting next to me threw discus also…in middle school…for about a month. He’s a band teacher in Indianapolis and was on his way to Oregon to get his masters. That’s when we found out the other guy in our row was from Oregon. They asked me where I was from and I said originally, Seattle, but I live in Indy now. So they were surprised to learn I work in agriculture when they asked what I do in Indy. “Are there any farms in Seattle?” We don’t actually farm IN Seattle…it’s just the same county. It’s a pretty big county too, especially compared to those in Indiana.

This much water in the field definitely is NOT good!
The Oregon guy is also getting his masters in a small town in north central Indiana where he says there’s nothing to do if you aren’t a farmer. Then he mentioned that he’s seen a lot of ponds in the fields and said, “That’s not good, is it? Are the crops okay?” That’s a good question. I’d hardly consider myself a crop expert, but I’ve learned a ton in the last year. We’ve gotten a lot of rain lately. Crops, especially corn, need rain to grow, but not this much. There are a lot of drowning crops right now and that’s definitely not good. When crops are underwater and then it gets really hot, that’s also not good. It bakes them.

Planting was late this year and replanting may not be an option at this point for some farmers. I don’t know about soybeans, but for corn there are different maturity days on it. In Washington, my brother plants 82, 92 or something like that (again, not the expert here) day corn since we have a shorter growing season. It’s generally a little longer than that, I think, in Indiana. Replanting pushes harvest back too. Harvest is already a battle with mother nature to get the crops in. Push it back too far and you’ll be dealing with snow and may not get all the crops out of the field.

Mr. Oregon also asked what the smaller green plants growing in the fields are. Not corn, but the other ones that seem to be everywhere. Those are soybeans. It’s a very fair question, especially for someone from the west coast. I’d heard of soybeans, but had never seen one until I moved to Indiana five years ago. I had no idea what they were.

We talked about some of the common uses for corn and soybeans and how agriculture is a big deal in Indiana. We’re ranked pretty high in a lot of things…1st in ducks, 2nd in ice cream, 3rd in laying hens (eggs), 4th in turkeys, 5th in hogs, approximately 4th or 5th in corn and soybeans. Our aquaculture industry is also taking off. Indiana is the smallest state west of the Appalachian Mountains, but you’d never know it from our agriculture production. Indiana farmers are rocking it. They’re definitely doing something right.

The best conversations seem to come from out of nowhere. I love those! I learned a lot about musical instruments. In fact, my airplane neighbor and I do have something in common. Remember how I mentioned he threw discus for a quick second in middle school and then quit? This girl played clarinet in 5th grade and then quit. I never thought my extremely limited knowledge of woodwinds would ever come up in conversation again. Small world.

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